The Clever Son


Here is an Ethiopian tale from the Afar region of Ethiopia.  You can read the entire story on the Ethiopian Folktales‘ website.  Enjoy!


Once there was a very intelligent Afar boy aged fifteen, but he was always upset and angry because he knew what was happening in his house. His father was having an affair with one of his mother’s servants and his mother was having an affair with someone outside the household. And the boy knew about this and he was very angry.

Then one day, as he was asleep in the corner covered with clothes, his mother’s lover came in and didn’t notice him.

And he said to his mother, “You’re a very generous woman. You’ve given me everything I’ve ever asked for. Now tomorrow what I want is to eat the big white ox that belongs to your husband.”

And his mother said, “There’s no problem, as long as you come with ten of your friends.”

White ox
White ox

Then the next day, her lover came with ten of his friends.

She went to her husband and said, “Look, all of my relatives have come and we’ve got to feed them and they’re so many, I can’t give them just injera1 and ordinary things.”

And the husband said, “OK, I’ll slaughter the big white ox for you so you can feed them.”

And he took the ox under a tree and was slaughtering him using his big dagger.

Now the son was very angry and when he went to his father his father had already cut up the pieces of meat and he gave them to the boy, and told him to take it to the guests. Now as they were going along, wherever he passed a rock he bent down and put a piece of meat on each rock. And he continued walking towards the men. And when the father looked up, he saw the pieces of meat on the rock.

I wonder what’s wrong with my son?”

He had the dagger in one hand, and picking up the pieces of meat with the other, he followed his son.

Now the son went running to the guests and the man said, “What’s your father doing?”

tenAnd the son said, “Can’t you see? He’s picking up rocks as he’s coming towards us and he also has his dagger. He’s found out that you’re having an affair with my mother and he’s coming to kill you.”

And the man and the guests got up and went running away, and the father ran after them, trying to stop them.

Then the boy went to his mother, and she said, “What’s all the turmoil?”

He said, “My father’s found out about your affair and now he’s running to stone your lover. Then he’ll come home and slit your throat.”

So obviously the mother was terrified and began running towards her mother’s house.

When his father saw that he couldn’t catch up with the guests, he started coming home, but he saw his wife running out, so he called his son and said, “What’s going on?”

And his son said, “My mother’s found out about your affair and she’s running to tell her mother.”

So he ran after her saying, “Please, please, in the name of the Lord, don’t say anything to your mother.”

And his wife ran on when she saw him coming after her.


Please don’t kill me, please don’t slit my throat.”

So the son ran after them.

Both of them reached her mother’s house at the same time.

And the mother looked at the wife and said, “What’s wrong with you?”

And she said, “I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you. My son knows what the true reason is.”

And the mother turned to her son-in-law and said, “What’s wrong with you?”

He said, “I can’t tell you either. Only my son knows the true reason.”

Just then the boy arrived.

He said, “It’s OK, I’ll solve the problem as long as we go home.”

And when they went home he talked to each one individually and he said to his father, “My mother’s willing to forgive you as long as you don’t do it again.”

Then he went to his mother and said, “My father’s willing to forgive you as long as you don’t do it again.”

So both of them continued living happily without each one knowing about the other’s infidelity and this shows that a smart boy is a pride to his parents.

1. Injera is a flat, round bread usually made from tef, a grain cultivated in the highlands of Ethiopia.


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